called "the land of the Chaldeans" (Jer. 24:5; Ezek, 12:13), was an extensive province in Central Asia along the valley of the Tigris from the Persian Gulf northward for some 300 miles. It was famed for its fertility and its riches. Its capital was the city of Babylon, a great commercial centre (Ezek. 17:4; Isa. 43:14). Babylonia was divided into the two districts of Accad in the north, and Summer (probably the Shinar of the Old Testament) in the south. Among its chief cities may be mentioned Ur (now Mugheir or Mugayyar), on the western bank of the Euphrates; Uruk, or Erech (Gen. 10:10) (now Warka), between Ur and Babylon; Larsa (now Senkereh), the Ellasar of Gen. 14:1, a little to the east of Erech; Nipur (now Niffer), south-east of Babylon; Sepharvaim (2 Kings 17:24), "the two Sipparas" (now Abu-Habba), considerably to the north of Babylon; and Eridu, "the good city" (now Abu-Shahrein), which lay originally on the shore of the Persian Gulf, but is now, owing to the silting up of the sand, about 100 miles distant from it. Another city was Kulunu, or Calneh (Gen. 10:10).
The salt-marshes at the mouths of the Euphrates and Tigris were called Marratu, "the bitter" or "salt", the Merathaim of Jer. 50:21. They were the original home of the Kalda, or Chaldeans.
The most famous of the early kings of Babylonia were Sargon of Accad (B.C.3800) and his son, Naram-Sin, who conquered a large part of Western Asia, establishing their power in Palestine, and even carrying their arms to the Sinaitic peninsula. A great Babylonian library was founded in the reign of Sargon. Babylonia was subsequently again broken up into more than one state, and at one time fell under the domination of Elam. This was put an end to by Khammu-rabi (Amraphel), who drove the Elamites out of the country, and overcame Arioch, the son of an Elamite prince. From this time forward Babylonia was a united monarchy. About B.C. 1750 it was conquered by the Kassi, or Kosseans, from the mountains of Elam, and a Kassite dynasty ruled over it for 576 years and 9 months.
In the time of Khammu-rabi, Syria and Palestine were subject to Babylonia and its Elamite suzerain; and after the overthrow of the Elamite supremacy, the Babylonian kings continued to exercise their influence and power in what was called "the land of the Amorites." In the epoch of the Kassite dynasty, however, Canaan passed into the hands of Egypt.
In B.C. 729, Babylonia was conquered by the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III.; but on the death of Shalmaneser IV. it was seized by the Kalda or "Chaldean" prince Merodach-baladan (2 Kings 20:12-19), who held it till B.C. 709, when he was driven out by Sargon.
Under Sennacherib, Babylonia revolted from Assyria several times, with the help of the Elamites, and after one of these revolts Babylon was destroyed by Sennacherib, B.C. 689. It was rebuilt by Esarhaddon, who made it his residence during part of the year, and it was to Babylon that Manasseh was brought a prisoner (2 Chr. 33:11). After the death of Esarhaddon, Saul-sumyukin, the viceroy of Babylonia, revolted against his brother the Assyrian king, and the revolt was suppressed with difficulty.
When Nineveh was destroyed, B.C. 606, Nabopolassar, the viceroy of Babylonia, who seems to have been of Chaldean descent, made himself independent. His son Nebuchadrezzar (Nabu-kudur-uzur), after defeating the Egyptians at Carchemish, succeeded him as king, B.C. 604, and founded the Babylonian empire. He strongly fortified Babylon, and adorned it with palaces and other buildings. His son, Evil-merodach, who succeeded him in B.C. 561, was murdered after a reign of two years. The last monarch of the Babylonian empire was Nabonidus (Nabu-nahid), B.C. 555-538, whose eldest son, Belshazzar (Bilu-sar-uzur), is mentioned in several inscriptions. Babylon was captured by Cyrus, B.C. 538, and though it revolted more than once in later years, it never succeeded in maintaining its independence.
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